|Officials and organizations in states across the nation have been raising awareness during National Boating Safety Week leading up to Memorial Day weekend, and residents in some states may have a particular incentive to heed warnings.
Florida leads the nation in boat crashes, according to figures released May 8 by the U.S. Coast Guard. The state saw 581 accidents last year, which comes out to about one in seven of all boat crashes nationwide.
There were 70 fatal boat accidents in Florida in 2014, including 12 caused by drunk boat operators. Alcohol is the leading contributor to fatal boating accidents nationwide; in accidents with a known primary cause, alcohol is listed as a factor in about 16% of boating fatalities.
Unsurprisingly, small, landlocked states had fewer accidents in 2014, the Coast Guard said; Vermont had only five. Ocean access doesn’t correlate with number of accidents across the board, however, as Hawaii had only nine accidents last year, one more than South Dakota.
As mentioned above, alcohol is to blame in a large portion of fatal boating accidents. As relaxing as it may be to crack open a beer while out on the boat, not drinking while boating is an important safety measure.
Boat owners should also make sure to have regular safety checks performed, take boating safety classes and permit only qualified adults to operate their boats. Weather conditions can change rapidly out on the water, so it’s important to check conditions just before a boating trip and have emergency supplies and equipment on board in case of a sudden storm. It’s also a good idea to leave a float plan (a planned route) with someone at home or at the marina in case the boat becomes disabled.
And, of course, all boaters should know that life jackets save lives. Boats must have at least one life jacket for each person aboard to meet U.S. Coast Guard guidelines.